Thursday, May 3, 2007

Spoils of war

A family enterprise- Party no bar for uncle and nephew who live off spoils of the battle

Nandigram, May 2: A frail, middle-aged man was in a hurry on Monday evening, digging a hole in his backyard. Beside him, a young man scooped out earth with a shovel to speed up work.
Bundles of clothes, utensils and jars stuffed with candies and snacks lay nearby, to be shoved down the hole — the goodies are in all likelihood spoils from raids by the uncle and nephew, part of a CPM gang on April 20 and a Trinamul Congress-led team 10 days later.
A winding village path had led to the house where a small patch behind two crumbling thatched huts was the treasure chest for Nepal Chiti and Netai Singh (names changed on request).
The huts were crammed with gunny bags full of rice and dal and plastic chairs. Beside them were piles of hair oil and soap bars, utensils and a sewing machine.
Asked where he got all these from, Nepal, 45, threw a hand in the air. “People were fleeing Satengabari with their belongings. Some of them dropped these articles and we took them… we are poor people,” he said.
Where did he get the sewing machine?
Netai, 25, jumped to his uncle’s rescue. “Oh, that one? It was lying in front of a house.”
Asked what they were doing in Satengabari, a kilometre from where they live in Brindabanchowk, Netai said they belonged to the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee. “We went there with the bahini (force).”
Jalad Baran Das, a leader of the committee, claimed that neither Nepal nor Netai ever belonged to it. “They were part of the CPM mob that ransacked houses in our village, Keyakhali, 10 days ago. They looted all my rice and pulses and took them in gunny bags.”
The CPM’s Satengabari branch committee secretary Arabinda Mondal admitted that Nepal and Netai were with partymen during a clash between CPM and Pratirodh Committee supporters in Keyakhali. He denied any looting, though.
But Mir Mannan Ali, who fled Satengabari when supporters of the committee raided CPM supporters’ houses on Monday morning, said Nepal and Netai were in the mob. “Two of my sons run tailoring shops and we had six sewing machines. They took away three of them on a cycle van,” said Mir.
Netai’s wife Champa, mother of a four-year-old girl and two-year-old boy, said he has been out of work since the land war broke out. Earlier, he worked in the fields and rode a cycle van.
“Now he brings rice, dal and other goods when he goes out with the bahini,” she added.
Abu Taher, a Trinamul leader and convener of the committee, would like to count the duo among “some miscreants who are taking advantage of the situation”.
“We’ve cautioned our people against these men. They are here only to plunder and loot,” he said.